5 Things I Learned About Money in 2014

It's no secret to anyone who keeps up with me regularly that 2014 was a tough year for me: both personally and emotionally. 2014 was also a year rife with financial missteps and money lessons well learned. Since writing helps me process my feelings, I thought it would be fun to get “on paper” and share the 5 things I learned about money in 2014.

I Learned More About My Own Relationship With Credit

Some folks love credit cards: they churn, burn, and rack up rewards points like pros. I am not this kind of a person. A) Because it is too much for me to keep up with and B) because I don't have a great track record when it comes to handling credit. 

I worked my way out of credit card debt once before in 2011. And I didn't use them again until I needed to fund the massive renovation I did on the home I bought in 2013.  2014 was going to be the year I smashed all of that credit card debt. But alas I am still carrying it, for more reasons than one. Now I know, I'm the type of person who can really only use cash on hand in the bank.

When You Own a Home, You Need Way More in the Bank

A healthy emergency fund is an essential for everyone, but typically when you're paying off debt, you get by with a smaller fund in the hopes of saving money on interest. While this is nice in theory, when you own a home, your emergencies get exponentially bigger…and more expensive.

From a $325 pest control problem, to the $1800 I spent on stairs and insulation for the home, to the $1k rat infestation in my attic I'm currently dealing with. I learned this year that it is always wise to have a healthy emergency fund and a money cushion to cope with what homeownership can bring your way.

You Can't Put a Price on Security

Back in July I had my identity stolen. Aside from being a huge pain-in-the-butt, I realized that 5.95 per month to monitor my credit score and activity on my social security number is a small price to pay for protection.

Rental Property Income Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

In June I decided to start renting the third bedroom in my house out in order to recoup more cash and “passive income” thru landlording and real estate investing. I ended up selecting a (former) childhood friend who knew both my brother and myself to live in the house and I thought the arrangement would work out swimmingly. What's so wrong to renting to friends and family? When it goes well it goes well, but when it goes wrong…it can go oh so wrong.

After a scary altercation with my drunk/high former friend (involving cops, ambulances, a general ruckus on my street and both sets of parents), I realized that no amount of extra income per month is worth a person ruining your sanity, stressing out your emotional bandwidth, or feeling like you don't have a safe, calm place to come home to. Thankfully, we were able to come to an agreement and she did the classy thing and moved out, but since then I haven't felt up to bringing in another roommate.

Even though it's a chunk of change over the course of the year, I'm OK with the decision. Everyone thinks being a landlord is an easy way to make money. Nope, wrong again.

Talking About Money is a Minefield…

Talking about money is still taboo. Even for me, as someone who writes and talks about money all the time, I found myself getting a little embarrassed and irritated as loved ones and I discussed Christmas present budgets. Even as the host of Awkward Money Chat, a show designed to break down the taboos surrounding money, it was still a weird experience. Who knew?

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  • Lisa
    January 28, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I’m realizing I’m the same way with credit. I would loooove to churn credit cards and get cash back rewards and travel rewards like a pro. But I’m just not that organized and I don’t have that much self control.

    • Lauren Bee
      February 2, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Different things work for different people. I’m a rockstar at finding extra cash, and I’m sure there’s an area where you are really great too!

  • Gary_Weiner
    January 15, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Sometimes you have to look back before you can move forward, and it sounds like you have a good perspective on what happened last year. Here’s hoping for a smoother 2015!

    • Lauren Bee
      February 2, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Thanks so much Gary!

  • Michelle
    January 13, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    OMG! I can’t believe that happened with your friend. In my family there’s a joke about being careful about who you let in your home. In fact, every time some asked me if I was subletting my place during my travels I was like “HELL NO!!” I own this property and I love it. Until I move out, no one else will be moving in..even temporarily.

    • Lauren Bee
      February 2, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Agreed. You just never know.

  • Money Beagle
    January 13, 2015 at 10:08 am

    As long as you’re learning and realize that there’s no way to ever ‘learn it all’, then you should get wiser and more experienced, when it comes to money as well as many other things. I hope you have a great 2015!

    • Lauren Bee
      January 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Money Beagle! I think it’s going to be a much better year!

  • The Stoic
    January 13, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Good to see you back LBee!
    Think of your experiences as fertile ground from which wisdom grows. Each experience, regardless of whether you judge it to be good or bad, increases your understanding of the world. That wisdom can then be leveraged to live a “good life” that is deeply authentic to you. From your relationship to credit, to the sometimes joy(less) aspects of owning a home, and even your lessons learned from renting to friends, are but one degree of reality. The key is to look at each experience we have and ask if our own mental process’ has anything to do with the outcome of the experience or at least how we have judged the outcome. More often than not, I believe we will find it does.
    All the best in 2015,
    The Stoic

    • Lauren Bee
      January 13, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Definitely a year full of lessons. I’m all for learning and growing, but I’d also like to lay low a bit in 2015 😉 thank you for a thoughtful comment (as always!)

  • C@thesingledollar
    January 12, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    I spend a fair amount of time mooning around wishing I owned a house, but the financial side of things is so scary to me — everyone I know with a house is constantly working on it! They can be so pretty though…. I’m sorry you had such a rough first roommate experience. I swear it is not always like that! I’ve had great roommates and “eh” roommates, but never anyone who was actively dangerous. When you’re ready to face the prospect again, you’ll almost certainly find someone easier to live with. Anyway — it sounds like you laid a lot of good mental groundwork in 2014 for a successful 2015. Cheers!

    • Lauren Bee
      January 13, 2015 at 11:33 am

      There are both good and bad aspects of owning a home for sure, I just know that for me…at the point I’m at in my life, I think I’d like to go back to renting while I focus on ramping up my life and career. Thanks for your comment!